Hero

“It’s over.”

I can’t move. Those two little words have frozen me to the ground. Did she really just say that? I can’t be sure, I can’t think straight. Despite everything I was now able to do, I didn’t see this coming at all.

I’ve let the silence become uncomfortably long. I know she’s waiting for me to respond, but I can’t find the words. Even if I did, I’m not sure I could voice them.

“But-,” is all I eventually mumble, but she’s already prepared to counter.

“Don’t do that, John. Please. You must have known this was coming?” she says.

I think I’m still in shock. I mean, we’re on the sidewalk, just had dinner, and now this. Words usually come quite easily for me, but not tonight. She’s caught me entirely off guard and I don’t know what to do, what to say.

“No,” is all I can manage. Brilliant.

“Please don’t. Last night was the final time, I swore it. I needed you and where were you? I needed my boyfriend with me and you weren’t there. Yet again.”

Her tone tells me she’s waiting for an explanation, the reason I couldn’t be with her. The thing that was so important I let her sit in the hospital alone. I guess it’s one thing to miss a date or two, but not this.

“It was work. I’m sorry, Kate. I would have been right there if I could,” I say, but it’s clear from the look in her eyes it’s not enough. They’re glazing over: she’s going to cry.

“That’s the thing, John,” she starts, tears streaming down her face now, her voice stuttering, “I rang your work..last night..several times…asked for you..and they said..they said..you weren’t there..that you quit months ago!”

I move in to hold her for what I’m beginning to realise will be the last time, but she moves away. Behind the tears are eyes of anger now, not sadness. She’s still waiting for an explanation. A reason for all the missed dates, the late nights, the early mornings, my whereabouts last night. Something to explain all of it, something that will suddenly make sense of it all so she can forgive me and we can stay together. I know this is what she wants, and I want nothing more than to give it to her. But I can’t.

“I’m so sorry, baby,” is all I say. It’s not nearly enough.

“Then so am I.”

As she goes to turn away, I reach forward and grab her arm. She turns around and our eyes meet again. She pulls me close, leans toward my ear.

“Don’t do this. It’s really over. If you can’t trust me, be there for me, then I can’t trust you. And without that, we’ve got nothing,” she whispers.

It’s strange, but I swear she knows more than I think. I sure this can’t be true, I’ve been so careful, but the way she speaks sends a shiver right through me. Is she saying my secret would be safe with her? Does she know? This and a thousand other questions run through my head as she turns and walks away. It’s all happening so fast, I can’t make sense of it. The love of my life, the woman I was just eating dinner with, walking away to start a life on her own. Without me.

As the outline of her body fades, calm begins to creep back over me. More composed, I realise all of the things I could have said to make her stay. All of the good things I have done since that day six months ago. All of the people I have helped, and the bad ones I’ve stopped. They’re called superheroes in the comics and on the TV, but there’s nothing super about what I’ve done. It’s just life, and doing things other people aren’t able to. There’s no use in me having these abilities if I’m not going to use them. I could have told Kate this, she may have understood. She may have even loved me for it. But to tell her one side of things would open the door to the other. Of the people who want me dead, and the ones who would use anybody and everybody I love to make this happen. She doesn’t know it, but it’s all for her. Maybe one day she will. Maybe one day I’ll be able to tell her.

I feel an odd sensation coming over me as I skip around into the alley, something I feared had been lost to me forever. A single tear rolls down my check. Its warmth is oddly unfamiliar, yet comforting. I enjoy it a moment as I allow myself a brief thought of what might have been. Of a life lost, of a different future. But I’m shook from these thoughts by the sound of a woman’s scream. I judge it to be no more than ten miles away.

And so I catch the last remnants of the tear in my fingertips, allowing its warmth to moisten my hands, protect them against the winter’s cold. Then I fasten the button on my coat, rise myself from the ground, and soar up into the dark of the night.

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Author: jackkholt

Film graduate. Lover of lots of good films and quite a few bad ones. Reader. Writer. Novel in progress, obviously.

22 thoughts on “Hero”

  1. I’d love to see this scripted and illustrated, with twin panelling, showing him taking a punch for every time he’s let her down, helping a stranger up for every time he can’t find the words to speak to her, kind of a silent, parallel accompaniment, the kind of thing you can do with the graphic medium but not so well in prose.

    The title pretty much told me where this was going, but the tear was a really nice touch. Nice one. =)

    1. I was happy for the title to signpost it a little. Even some of the early lines allude to where it was going, I think.

      I love the illustration idea. I agree, in prose I don’t think it would work at all. I certainly wouldn’t try it! Even in film it would have to be done slightly tongue-in-cheek to work, I reckon. Lovely thought, though!

  2. Like Catherine, I was waiting for the superhero reveal. I hadn’t even connected with the title, perhaps because I’m reading so quickly tonight. Thanks for sharing, Jack!

    1. I was happy to use the title, and to throw in a few clues along the way. I wasn’t necessarily going for a big reveal this time, but I guess I just can’t help it! Thanks for reading though, John.

  3. Nicely written. I’ve never envied the life of a superhero, all those lies they have to tell to keep their secret identities errr… secret? As the lady said, without trust they have nothing… If only she knew…

  4. Yeah, I tried that “I couldn’t see you last night because I’m secretly a superhero” thing one time. She didn’t believe me….

    😉

    Nice job on this one.

    1. I’m sure we’ve all tried it at least once. “Sorry about last night, was thwarting a terrorist again,” is my personal fav.

      Thanks for reading, Tim. 😀

  5. *glances at all the comments above*

    I’m a little late to the party I see. I immediately thought superhero as I read this but I don’t think you were trying to stun us with the reveal here. I enjoyed his struggle and the dilemma. Good work, Jack.

    I want superpowers!

  6. Great premise..well, not so great for the girlfriend.. For some reason I kept thinking of us writers neglecting our loved ones with this obsession we have with words and hiding ourselves away.. hey does that mean we are superheroes??? ..nope.. don’t think so..just vainglorious idiots probably..
    Nice work Jack..

  7. Nicely done. I might have gone with the two-panel thing, in words, that John X described. Given the title, I was pretty sure I knew where it was going & I was not disappointed.

    He did the right thing, I think, letting her go… unless she too has superpowers. [Ah, now there’s an interesting thought for a sequel: she becomes a supervillain and he’s conflicted about stopping her.]

    1. I’m still not sure I could pull the two-panel thing off, but it’s definately given me food for thought.

      As for a sequel – perhaps! That’s certainly one idea on the table.

      Thanks for reading, Larry.

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